I recently read Prince of Darkness by columnist Robert Novak. In part of the book, Novak talks about converting to Catholicism. In passing, he mentions how people “hostile” to Catholicism sometimes say “I was raised Catholic” when asked if they are Catholic.
It never occurred to me saying this would be viewed as hostile. Saying “I’m a recovering Catholic” strikes me as a little hostile given that alcoholics use that terminology. But saying I was raised Catholic to me only says my parents were Catholic and I was raised in that tradition, but now am not Catholic. I’ve said this often because it seems accurate to me. Often when people ask “Are you Catholic?” it’s because they are leading into a story or point that might need some lead in for someone who is not Catholic. For instance, something about going to confession as a child, or a comment about the Cardinal, or a viewpoint on the Church’s stand on birth control. So when I answer that way, I am letting the person know that I understand the background about the Church, even though I’m not now Catholic.
Now that I read Novak’s comment, though, I can see where it could seem hostile because it goes out of the way to emphasize that though raised in the Catholic tradition, I am no longer Catholic or, in stronger words, I rejected Catholicism. Also, I don’t say “I used to be Catholic” but that my parents raised me that way, suggesting I never really wanted to be or never really was Catholic in the first place. Which probably does reflect some of my feeling about how I was taught religion and particularly about the confirmation process (which I’ll write about some other time).
I don’t see anything wrong with expressing negative feelings about a religion, but I generally try to refrain from commenting on others’ beliefs unless they’ve invited the discussion. Also, saying I’m not Catholic is not only more neutral but more accurate. At this point, I’ve been not Catholic for a longer time than I was Catholic. So I’ve decided that from now on, if asked if I’m Catholic, I’ll simply say that I’m not Catholic.
Lisa M. Lilly
Lisa M. Lilly
Author of The Awakening